Thursday 28 February 2013
The 21st century has really turned up the heat in TV land. I don;t watch TV per se - my television has been sitting in the back of my car for the past five weeks - but I DO watch TV series. Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire, Parks And Recreation, Community - these (and quite a few more) are my go to's, to the point where I lose large chunks of time and a film or book rarely suffices (the book mainly because I'm lazy, and the last book I attempted to read A Pretty Good Read, an unofficial "biography" of Modest Mouse - was the biggest piece of shit Ive ever attempted. Seriously, Alan Golsher should have disappeared up Isaac Brock's arsehole in the first five pages. There's a good story in there, if you could past all the blatant cock-sucking...). Currently, my poison of choice is The Walking Dead. I'm just finishing season 2 and beginning season 3. A lot of people had complaints about the elongated farm sequence of season 2, but to me there was something 'real' about that - the stalling and scrabbling for normalcy in a apocalyptic wasteland, the core human emotions still struggling for a place in such a dire landscape... But yeah, the prison can't come quick enough.
ANYway, so this week Ive been watching that, and listening predominantly to last year's self-titled record from Austin TX reprobates OBNIIIs. I actually chose to pull this one out again solely because of its tenuous connection - what with the black spectres in front of a blood-red background on the cover. But the straight up, balls to the wall rock and roll that tumbles out of the speakers is primal, vintage stuff - if the world turned to pot, with everything degenerating to the basest of terms where survival is key, this would be the perfect soundtrack. There are elements of Death right through to Fu Manchu in these rollicking tracks, with some blues and psych mingling at the edges. But the attitude that pervades this record - confidence to burn - is infectious and ridiculously true to form. Many bands attempt this - very few nail it in such a pure fashion. If the shit went down tomorrow, this would be in my sweaty palm as I fled for high ground. Get OBNIIIs through Tic Tac Totally here. Trust me, it's worth it - even if it is saved for a zombie infestation.
OBNIIIs - You Wanna Bitch
OBNIIIs - Stick and Move
OBNIIIs - People Are Afraid
If you think back all the way to 2011, I raved about Family, the debut EP from Bristol miscreants Spectres. So many bands adhere the Sonic Youth school of rock to their own ends, yet Family felt original, something visceral and ebullient, harrowing and energising in equal measure. Their live shows are understandably widely-renowned, few new young bands brandishing such clout and noise with such aggression and abandon without it falling into an implosive mess. I've had the new EP Hunger for a couple months again, and it furthers the rabid excitement, and hopefully gleans them a much larger fan base. Essentially four songs (opener 'Pull' is 47 seconds of ambient noise), Hunger is a ferocious package, each song more explosive than its predecessor. Controlled tensions, squalled aggressions. Excellent stuff.
Get Hunger from Howling Owl Records here.
Wednesday 27 February 2013
Sophomore Lounge (alongside Infinity Cat and 100% Breakfast) put out Cute Mutant, the LP from Boston noise terrorists Skimask. Voice terrorists, more like it - the two vocalists (one spitting lyrics that are so distorted that it feels like Jon Spencer ate a supermarket intercom, the other manipulating guttural noises) are the instruments, with the only other common denominator is the drumkit. That's right - no guitar or bass, the incessant noise is all from a dude's throat with effects pedals a-go-go. It makes for something wedged between Foot Village or Lightning Bolt - sure the drumming is nowhere to the same level frenzy, but the seemingly ad-hoc (and definitely crazy) song structure and feverish compositions are akin. The end result - Cute Mutant is a quivering swamp monster, fuelled by electricity and madness, feasting on dubious souls and spitting them into the converted masses' open mouths. That's not so cute, now, is it?
Grab Cute Mutant here. I have no idea what it means, but it somehow rocks, and is replayable. You've gotta fucking love that then. And if you are in Boston, and these guys are playing, put your riot gear on and GET THERE.
Skimask - Tempurpedic Mattress
Skimask - Slap Me Silly
Grab Cute Mutant here. I have no idea what it means, but it somehow rocks, and is replayable. You've gotta fucking love that then. And if you are in Boston, and these guys are playing, put your riot gear on and GET THERE.
Skimask - Tempurpedic Mattress
Skimask - Slap Me Silly
As you may have noticed I occasionally whinge about how I sometimes miss out on great new music, either because it slips through the cracks of my ever-overflowing inbox, because I'm overworked, because I drank five thousand beers and woke up in a strange bed. Whatever. It happens. There's lots of good stuff that hasn't graced this hallowed hall. But I always hope that when one of these bands bring about a new release, I can smash that one to the bleachers for all and sundry to scrabble over.
Today, that band is Hazel's Wart, a San Francisco trio whose sloppy emotive noise-pop has really struck a chord (three of my all-time records being The Lonesome Crowded West, Perfect From Now On (the dude sounds sooooo much like Doug Martsch!) and Dancer Equired!, it kinda makes sense). Back in 2011 they brought out a great scuzzy guitar pop album in Together We Didn't - not in the garage, throwaway sense, but more in tune to the early 90s alternative rock that pre-dated the "grunge" push, fuzzed-out guitars with slightly underdone production because that's all they knew how to do. But they are now onto a softer vibe that is akin to early Modest Mouse (which was always there from the beginning), if new cassette Regretful Dependencies is anything to go by - and the even lower frequency production actually makes this slight shift in sonic direction even better, steeping it in the era that its definitive influences come from. Hey, does that guitar on 'Checked' sound like a J Mascis-worshipping dip of the cap? I believe so!
Seriously, Hazel's Wart are a damn fine band, playing damn fine music that people seem to be a little adverse at taking on as their own anymore. I know, I know - trends and tastes shift etc etc. But that's for fools to embody - if it's this good, just like it already! You can grab Regretful Dependencies here, and I strongly suggest getting into Together We Didn't also - you can pick that up here.
Hazel's Wart - Cheap Thrill
Hazel's Wart - Checked
I wouldn't exactly say I snoozed on Zingers, the debut (and apparently long-awaited) record from Melbourne trio Milk Teddy, out through Lost & Lonesome and Knock Yr Socks Off. It's that I had never heard of them until Lost & Lonesome sent through the record in December. It only took one revolution for me to be a convert, yet my trip to Europe and subsequent hospitalisation delayed my revisit. But it's important that I air my thoughts, because Zingers is a record that stands apart from a lot of the good music that Melbourne, and indeed the rest of Australia, is tapping into, mainly for their inability to sit still. No one song is the same, which is refreshing and frustrating in equal measure. I hate it when a band becomes too monotonous and staid, but too much genre hopping can indicate a band without any focus, identity or form. Yet most of these tracks - whether delving into 80s guitar pop a la the obvious-titled 'XTC', to the Flying Nun flicks of the title track, to the dreamy reverb drenched doo-wop of 'Michael' and soaring synth euphoria of 'Night Worker'. It's all taken with a liberal dollop of irreverence, and Thomas Mendelovits's vocals anchor everything together (reminds me of a mix between The Shins' James Mercer and Real Estate's Martin Courtney).
There has been considerable efforts to lump these boys into the Twerps/Dick Diver set, yet such shoehorning is unwarranted (only the title track really comes close to such a mind set). There is far too much variance to apply such reputations on Milk Teddy. Yet the murky, underdone production of Zingers has copped a bit of stick, and for good reason - at times such an understated approach dulls the impact of these songs. Which has put them to the forefront of bands I need to see live - if these tracks are this good without a clear production, imagine what it'll be like on stage.
You can grab the ever intriguing Zingers here. This is the kind of album that will grow on you, I feel. Give it a slug.
Milk Teddy - Going To Sri Lanka
Milk Teddy - Zingers
Tuesday 26 February 2013
Its been a very hot summer. Best time to be in a country that loves its pools - and even better, that has incredible beaches. It hasn't been the best for me though - in the UK for most of it, then in hospital, then banned from water like a Mogwai. Sigh. The beach holds so many great memories. Here are three beaches though that you should be wary of though - don't go burying your stash in the sand or off into the dunes with a handsome stranger here. Just when you thought it was safe to go into the water etc etc.
This first Beach band (and the impetus for this post) had a release out in the dying light of last year, Pacific. Canberra's Danger Beach is the solo project of Lachlan Thomas (formerly of sadly now defunct Assassins 88). His debut record Milky Way was somewhat a hit out there in the global internet ether, whilst the video for the track 'Apache' was nominated as a finalist for the 2012 Vimeo Music Video Awards. Those lo-fi meanderings aren't entirely gone, yet there is a slicker, darker perspective to these tunes that, if the glossy cover art is anything to go by, lurks in that in-between state between dark and light in the city - where the darkness never truly invades, but never truly leaves either. Think of Michael Mann's Collateral. There are sunny moments like 'Bee' or great track 'Idle Hands', but above all the devil is in the twilit details - especially the sirens that light up the stone-cold classic that is the closer 'Dark Blue' - fucking rad. A great album from a great up and coming band, you can get Pacific through Dream Damage here.
Out of these three beaches, Menace Beach probably has the most recognition, at least potentially. A Leeds-based quasi-"supergroup" featuring members of Pulled Apart By Horses, Sky Larkin and Hookworms, I was immediately enamoured by their scuzzy nature, although they are also the closest to beach guitar pop of the three - their PR even pushes references of Wavves and Ganglians onto us. They are not bereft of ideas though, already rolling out a couple of tracks for Too Pure Records' Singles Club to back up their self-titled debut EP. 'Dropouts' sounds as much Breeders territory as anything else, or mid 90s Britpop that flirted with noisier, more whacked-out guitar settings, whilst 'Tastes Like Medicine' comes from the Williams/Cosentino school of shimmering lightweights that still somehow manage to remain fun and relevant. Pre-order this sucker here.
A couple weekends ago I was at ATP Melbourne. What a blast! But I also missed some of the greatest film clips on Rage courtesy of iconic reviewers Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton, highlighting the foundations that a lot of today’s great innovative filmmakers cut their teeth on. It’s this kind of retrospective that really makes you appreciate the music video platform. That, and rewatching The Woken Trees’ ‘Yells’ clip yesterday. So today, here are four more good little music videos to lose yourself in (and lose some valuable work minutes while you’re at it…)
I thought we’d start with one of the bands I saw whilst missing the said Rage special. After a twenty year hiatus, Berlin-based Australian (maybe?) art band Crime & the City Solution are back, led by Simon Bonney and featuring the likes of Dirty Three’s Jim White on drums. They were underrated to the point of forgotten in the wake of the rise of the likes of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds (now ex-Bad Seed actually convinced Bonney to move to England at the genesis point of Crime…, whilst Rowland S Howard played guitar with them, and they even play in Wim Wenders’ excellent Wings of Desire in this guise), even though they bore many similarities. Now they are back (having relocated to Detroit for the most part) and playing fairly solid sets (it wasn’t always my cup of tea, but there were some old crackers and some new growers, and White is always a delight to watch, one of the most underrated drummers in rock history), they are releasing a new record in American Twilight (the title track, when played at ATP, reminded me of a less aggressive Girls Against Boys, which was a huge surprise…). ‘Goddess’ is the first single off it, and although buoyed by fairly jubilant lyrics (Love the light of which you give / A human touch eternal gift / Against the dark a gentle face / I celebrate your sensual grace /Oh Goddess), it remains a roiling psych-inflected tune, and the video accentuates this. Whilst I'm not entirely sold on the new stuff, it at least has shone a light on a band that were incredibly undervalued when they were at their peak – well worth peering into the back catalogue.
Now here is an interesting thing. I'm not sure if I'm a fan of Sherpa, a psych pop band from Auckland, New Zealand. They appear to be following in the footsteps of like minded (and bizarrely NZ-led) acts Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Opossum, yet I’ve only heard this one track. I wouldn’t have paid it much mind to be honest – but this bonkers film clip, done on the cheap, sold me and then some. This is like a 90s bad paisley psych band, taking barbs that went stale in the 90s, which somehow coalesces into that netherground of good trip/bad trip unease. A lot of fun – let this Sherpa lead you where it may…
Two bands close to home – now for one that is distinctly Australian. Circular Keys is a duo that delve into dreamy, ethereal synth soundscapes, and their video for ‘Possessed’ is just as otherworldly – evoking the fear of isolation in nighttime lockdowns (in this case, a storage facility), an overtly-frilled-and-laced hotel and a ghostly beauty navigating it all. True comedown.
Finally we have Hotel Mexico, who are from where? Kyoto Japan, of course! This new track from the six-piece is everything that the hipster masses love – the 80s synths with slight wear and tear, distorted reverbed vocals with female backing vocals humming just under the mix, and a film clip that is obtuse and looks shot on VHS, Harmony Korine-lite. I should despise this on principle. But this track ‘AI In Dreams’ is a lot of fun – not least because the band, dressed up in faux zombie chic, look like they are having such a good time. The bands that enjoy making music – regardless if it’s in a genre that irks me – tend to imbue their sounds with the kind of joviality that pushes them to the top.
NOW GET BACK TO WORK!
The New Life, the second LP from Belfast's Girls Names, is out today. I liked their debut Dead To Me, and the singles they released before and after always hinted at more - that these Irish kids could take the garage noise-pop that their contemporaries took for granted and embed it into their dreary climes, the northern province of isolation and regret (NOTE - I love Ireland - I've been there three times, and I endeavour to go many more. Historically and geographically, however, the places has copped a bit of a hiding. OK, now I'll continue...)
There has been a noticeable shift from the sunnier moments of previous releases on The New Life, instead opting for a cleaner production coupled with maudlin vocals, drab yet urgent (and often cyclical) instrumentation, and the lingering sense that nothing should, nor is, taken for granted. These tracks are different from past endeavours in many ways - most are in excess of five minutes, barely crack a smile, instead staring you down with a permanent sneer, spitting at your feet. They aren't antagonistic though - they want you to earn their respect. It's an apt title then - this is the equivalent of waking up one morning, discontent, and hitting the reset button.
Hooks are irrelevant (though still in evidence, as 'Occultation' clearly attests); the bass instead becoming the true sonic ringleader, with the jangle or explosion of guitars a counterpoint, an interjection, a pent-up exclamation. And the relentless closing title track, an eight minute behemoth that marches incessantly onwards, as fervently feverish as it is meticulous and slightly off-kilter. Already a favourite track of 2013 (although it technically came out as a single in October last year), it is the dark, forbidden yet oh so sweet icing on this remodelled cake.
The New Life found a home on Slumberland Records (the penny drops...) and you can get it here. Pre-order now and you can get it in clear vinyl alongside a rare 12" version of 'The New Life' track. This one will grow on you. And grow. And grow...
Girls Names - The New Life
Girls Names - Occultation
Monday 25 February 2013
The way I came to Starving Weirdos/RV Paintings alum Brian Pyle's solo output under the pseudonym of Ensemble Economique holds its roots in getting into drone in 2008. I came across his debut At The Foot of Nameless Roads and was floored by the variations on what drone could be, just within this one piece. Since then I have floated in and out of his output (thanks to Paul I was all over the brilliant Psychical) and been able to shine a light on this enigmatic yet entrancing sonic explorer.
EE's latest release is The Vastness Is Bearable Only Through Love, out through Shelter Press. Such a title is typically allusive, as it precipitates a miasma of acidic, caustic sounds that drill into your inner core, fuelling unease, pushing the needle into the red until the rhythmic undulations claw at the undercarriage of your brain. The haunting piano line in the title track (that takes all of one side of the 12") is, in my opinion, the coup de grace - a touchstone on the most eerie ghost stories, it proves to be more sinister than the metallic blips, shudders and hisses that it mingles with. A study in paranoia and insanity, this track is unnerving in the truest sense.
The two tracks on the B-side don't quite live up to this nerve-grating precursor - 'All That Remains Is Dark Sky' is the arbitrary fallout from such an aural marathon, a wasteland of white noise and undulating synth; whilst 'Something New Is Happening' is exactly that, a hint of a densely-layered silver lining flickering at the edge of the abyss...but to what end? The Vastness Is Bearable Only Through Love is an endurance test, one where the Machiavellian machinations of Ensemble Economique don't become clear until the album is fully ingested - and possibly not even then. Is this what the future sounds like? If so, my nightmares are much safer places to be.
You can pick up The Vastness Is Bearable Only Through Love here - it's in sexy blue vinyl to boot.
Ensemble Economique - All That Remains Is Dark Sky
Another band that I discovered last year and was mightily impressed by was Danish darkness dwellers The Woken Trees. Their video for 'Yells' is a ominous creepfest of lush occult annihilation, and it makes for an utterly hypnotic video. I love it, and in case you missed it last time around, here it is again.
Well it's finally time for the arrival of NNON, the six-piece's debut record, and it's every bit as dark, visceral and gruelling as their single led us to believe. From the crunching electronic squall of the opening ten seconds of 'Orders', the relentless bass and guitar line, it's an exercise in tightly coiled tension, playing off post-punk rigour with an insistence of an industrial nihilism that is both terrifying and alluring in equal measure. 'Yells' is still the best song to stand out here, but the twilight pagan folk of 'Holy Water', the nightmarish march of 'Children of Chalk' and the majesty within the shadows of 'Half Hollow' make for electric listening. You get a feeling that if Interpol were less interested in Joy Division and more interested in Wire, Einsturzende Neubauten and Throbbing Gristle, they may have ended down this post-industrial hellhole of a route.
Pre-order NNON through Pad & Pen Records here.
The Woken Trees - Yells
The Woken Trees - Holy Water
Just a quick post about Chicago band Videotape who brought out the very tidy LP This Is Disconnect last year (see what I thought here). They are currently writing for a new release, but in the interim have put out a “new” release. I say “new” as it’s essentially a re-release of This Is Disconnect alongside a new four-track EP. Thus, This Is Disconnect +4EP (out through Notes & Bolts next month). Simple, right?
Tomorrow is the launch date of ‘Monsters’, the single off the EP. It’s a great track, reminds me of some of the best slowburner tracks that have come out recently by the likes of Lower Dens and Widowspeak. Many bands try to tread the fine line between shoegaze guitar noise and indie pop compositions, and invariably fail. ‘Monsters’ is an example of how to make it work – using the crescendo as a natural progression rather than an effect to mask weak writing. Videotape are still growing, but if this track (their best one yet) is any indication, they have some killer ideas bubbling away, just under the surface.
You can pre-order This Is Disconnect + 4EP here. The release show is at the Burlington Bar on March 7 as part of Chicago’s newest monthly even that features local ambient, drone and shoegaze acts. (NB - there is a special edition 7" lathe-cut of the opening track 'Static' from This Is Disconnect being put out by Notes & Bolts especially for this (re)launch. Grab it here).
Videotape - Monsters
I meant to get this post out earlier, as they played an incendiary show the other weekend at the equally excellent ATP Melbourne, and were in town over the weekend and played two shows (one I hear was amazing on Friday – I didn’t attend due to the fact that I had a chiptune-themed Sonic Masala Presents show on; the other yesterday at the Powerhouse that was sublime). Ah well – I’ve been assured Melbourne Gothic God-fearing rustic Australian working class gospel noise choir (!?!) Harmony will be up again before the year is out, when they have a new album to spruik (their follow-up to 2011's stunning self-titled debut will be entitled Carpetbombing). As it stands, they have this 7" - and as you could expect it's a belter. The guttural, anguished yowls of Tom Lyngcoln and his throttled guitar, juxtaposed with the soaring angelics of his three-female choir, will never get old nor less idiosyncratic - it truly is a unique voice with seemingly limitless depths of chagrin and despair to plumb, clawing desperately for that thin shimmer of hope amidst the morass of guilt, shame and regret. Catharsis has never felt more vindicated than when Harmony strike a chord.
Grab Do Me A Favour here. The cover art is again done by Alex Gillies (No Anchor), and is suitably stark and stirring.
Sunday 24 February 2013
I watched Don Coscarelli's 1979 horror Phantasm for the first time today. I can't believe it's taken me so long. Sure, it doesn't make all that much sense, and the acting from the guy who plays Jody is one of the worst I've ever seen, but that kind of Italian-style horror, with a fair bit of humour thrown in, is right up my alley. And all for chips! There are lots of cool moments, created by a guy who loves having fun with his craft. I also watched Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained for the first time. Worlds apart in many respects, but also the similarities (violence and gore, lashings of humour, abject love of the artform) really struck me as I left the cinema. And I have come home to write tonight's Hits From The Box, and whilst I really liked both films, it's that sense of adventure, of creativity, of taking a chance, that has really stuck with me. And I enjoy that when I see that in bands too. And tonight, here are six acts that have impressed me for their craft this week...
Plant Parenthood is a band from Knoxville Tennessee that delves into the rougher, lower end of riff-heavy guitar rock that duos like JEFF The Brotherhood and Japandroids revel in. Their latest cassette, Sick Summer Vol. 2, is filled with that laconic, flailing, silly rock that makes you want to scull a beer, throw the dregs up in the air, let it hit you like fat drops of rain and not even notice how sticky that shit is, that's how blissfully happy and young (feeling) you are. Then there is 'Transit Town', another track they have put out - and it shits all over what is on this cassette. That warbling racket over the phone-recorded guitar strum - the drawled/shouted vocals - the innate warmth and potential singalong lyrics - it's rife with teenage touchstones. That said, no one around here is still in adolescence, so to tap into those notions without being manipulative or - well, shit - is a rare achievement. I like this, and hope they continue to rise. Get the cassette here, and listen (incessantly) to 'Transit Town' below.
I received an email about NY duo Trabajo waaaaaay back (like in July last year), yet I let it slip through my fingers - until I stumbled across their self-titled EP last week. Accidents happen, and like the four tracks on offer, they can reap unexpected rewards. Heavy on the experimental sampling and electronics, with vocals that straddle New Age stargazing and noise nonsense, the artificial Eastern beats inherent in tracks like 'Monk' are hypnotic and with a heady pinch of fun added. These tracks are made for headphones too - not like ANYTHING is made for laptop speakers, but Trabajo really grabbed me when I could differentiate all the different elements at play. NB - as I was researching the band I discovered they had released a new EP this month called Gamelan To The Love God - and it's infinitely better. This duo are doing some really creative, immersive and fun experiments with their format - I really wish they were a Brisbane band actually, that's how much I want to see them play this stuff live...
Let's head to Fort Wayne, Indiana now, where sonic travellers Heaven's Gateway Drugs call their spiritual plateau. They have released a pretty decent cassette in CPF, five tracks of mostly short slices of scorched, melodic psych meanderings, hovering between 60s bohemia and 70s blacktop swagger. So far, so Black Angels then (especially on something like 'Psychic Firearm'). Well, there's nothing wrong with that in my opinion - especially if it's done well. The selling point? The rabble chorus that hovers in the background of some of the tracks, most notably on 'Highway Hypnosis'. And that their press release claims there are six members of the band - the five musicians, "and you". I'm with you on this one fair wayfarers.
Now you think July last year was a long time coming? Try May, which is when NZ band Teen Fortress sent me their record Tepid Vapid Callow. The home project of Zach Doney (he of Bang Bang Eche infamy), the Christchurch native has a cross-pollination of emotive Bright Eyes vocals (well, sounds a bit like Conor Oberst) with the grittier, industrial town of angry, angular pop that the UK have always pumped out at regular intervals, all swimming in a petri dish of malaise, anguish, and awkward emotion that teeters on a knife's edge between hilarity and morbidity. I'm a massive fan of the music that is bubbling and boiling on the Island of the Long White Cloud - this is just another example (although Doney is moving to Melbourne soon - so like everything else from NZ that "makes it", Aussies can claim him soon too). Grab the record here.
Brooklyn duo Steel Phantoms actually got in contact with me a while ago too about their Forer EP, but I only officially cottoned on with their current release Curtain Call/Friend To Friend. I can't tell you why - maybe its that guitar sound, and Aaron Harris (of Islands' fame) nasally vocals - but I can't get early Walkmen out of my head when I hear 'Curtain Call', albeit with more urgency when the crunching chorus comes to a head. There are a few tempo changes here, but it all develops into a soaring track that easily beats everything on what stands on their previous release (which is a little slower and "mature" - not a bad thing, but the paring down to a two-piece seems to have made the world of difference). If you want to find out yourself, head over here to get Forer AND the single, make your own assumptions. I'm sure we'll end up on the same page.
Let's end with (a) Wedding Favor then, shall we? Wedding Favor is Philly artist Robert Perkins, who was planning to have his eleven-track LP Solitaries/Tanglements out by the end of January on Magic Death Records. I'm not sure if this has actually happened or not - I haven't been able to get back to him, nor have I found in available at the label - but if these two tracks are anything to go by, this is quintessential bedroom meanderings that echo the warbled scratchings of early Beach Fossils, but with a heavier focus on country and clear reverbed vocals (almost unheard of in this day and age, amirite?) These two tracks are cold but without being distant; the sonorous guitar echoing like a steel guitar on the side of a deserted highway on dusk, played by a youthful King Dude with Dean Wareham in support. These two tracks alone have me actually very excited to hear the entire album. And when I do, you will be the first to know. Until then - get the Wedding Favor itch...
It's been three years since Philadelphia’s psych surgeons Bardo Pond gave us something new – not that we need anything new necessarily, because their back catalogue is pretty exemplary. I've always thought the five-piece has been one of the most underrated bands of its ilk in the past decade. Fire Records can only bolster that claim, by lovingly reissuing 2006’s Ticket Crystals in a LP-only edition. Double vinyl and adorned with Joy Feasley’s new artwork, the album typifies the calculated yet fluid doom template that unrelentingly drives their sound, yet also showcased the pastel undercarriage that lightens the load enough for it to become immensely immersive rather than bludgeoning.
I realise this is a Sunday, but seeing as this is a stellar reissue I thought I’d give a special edition of “Friday Cover Up” to include the cover of the Beatles’ ‘Cry Baby Cry.’ Originally recorded for and broadcast by the BBC as part of their commemorations of the 25th anniversary of John Lennon’s death, it exemplifies the whole point I crafted the Cover Up segment in the first place. Taking great music and imbuing it with their own personality to craft a unique vision, this is Lennon in an iron lung filled with cryogenic fluid and absinthe.
Bardo Pond – Cry Baby Cry (Beatles cover)
And here is another Ticket Crystals classic…
Bardo Pond – Destroying Angel
Pre-order Ticket Crystals here. The band aim to release a new record in the latter stages of 2013, whilst also planning to release an exclusive 12” covers record for Record Store Day, so we haven’t heard the last of this stellar band.
Saturday 23 February 2013
I didn’t speak about it much, but Lightning Bolt’s Oblivion Hunter EP of last year was pretty stellar. Whilst not up there with their best releases, it’s pretty great for what essentially was a bits-&-bobs operation. But one thing I liked even more was Pus Mortem, the record put out by LB’s maniacal drummer/”vocalist” Brian Chippendale under his Black Pus guise. Abrasive, face-melting excellence par none.
Black Pus is not sitting idle either, with All My Relations being release through Thrill Jockey next month. This signals the first time Chippendale has gone into a proper studio, and the nuance and clarity that such things bring forth works bizarrely well here. There is so much more physical ferocity apparent when you can hear all the components at play – and anyone familiar with the insane technique and pace Chippendale employs will appreciate this. Even more prevalent is the drum-mounted oscillator, triggered by the kick which then loops outwards, ripples from a meteor.
I'm not going to say this is better than his day job – his combination with the frenetic basslines of Brian Gibson knows no rivals – but All My Relations proves that Black Pus is the real deal, not just a vanity project.
Pre-order All My Relations here. Black Pus is rampaging Stateside in May. The first one hundred to order it will get a comic page created by Chippendale himself, an amusing look at those who are more interested in what music he fits into than actually listening. I think we all know someone like that...
Black Pus – 1000 Years
Good morning sleepyheads! So I thought Id give you something Ive been mulling over for the past few weeks. Melbourne quartet Lower Plenty seemed to get some really street cred last year with the release of Hard Rubbish in April last year (through Special Award Records and Easter Bilby). Hell, Mess+Noise gave it their Album of the Year. Named after a Melbourne suburb (really), the band specialise in woozy, mournful lo-fi pop, and their pedigree (Dick Diver, UV Race, Total Control, Deaf Wish, insert other million band names here) ensured that their name was shouted across most boozy dives in the Victorian capital.
Now Hard Rubbish is preparing for an European assault after the US got a taste thanks to Goner Records (and have a split single 7” coming out through Matador). Fire Records, who over the past couple years have been loving the hell out of great Aussie music (Blank Realm, Scott & Charlene’s Wedding, Opposum, HTRK, Greg Boring, insert other thousand band names here), are adding Lower Plenty to the bill, and it seems a no brainer.
I’ve found it difficult to fully embrace Hard Rubbish. Not that I don’t want to. I’ve tried, and still am. The fact that Lower Plenty works as an outlet for the various band members to ease back on the grimy throttle of their other outfits is worthy in and of itself; whilst tracks like ‘White Walls’ emanate with the kind of drawling inert and off-kilter Australiana guitar pop that I usually lap up. But there is a want to shower after listening to these guys, or at the very least take some happy pills. The term “downer country” has been coined, possibly to play on the downer pop that the likes of Craig Dermody and Matt Kennedy revel in – but isn’t most country downer? Certainly the best C&W exists when the narrative comes from the gutter. And Lower Plenty definitely dwell there, and at times it feels TOO relatable, too world-weary.
But there are moments on Hard Rubbish that burrow like a sonic termite into your cerebral vortex, gnawing away at you until you have no recourse but to tumble under the weight (or the lack thereof) of your resistance. ‘Nullabor’ is the kind of Badlands-style romance that anyone can believe in, let alone Australians with an itch for the quixotic unknown; ‘Close Enough’ is heartrending in its wistful acknowledgement that a relationship slipped through the fingers (“I was close enough away to see the fading of the dark”).
Once this happens, you really take on board the lyrics – the mumbled, half-asleep, foggy from slumber and alcohol phone conversations, sinking lower into the moth-eaten couch, sweating in a tongue-and-groove house, lamenting a place and state of mind that you can’t (or won’t) leave. With the vocals interspersed between Sarah Heyward, Al Montfort and Jensen Tjhung, there is enough variations on the tired intonation to offer fresh counterpoints – but only when you let the songs inside. At the end of the day, Hard Rubbish will tear you up, wring you dry, and leave you on the edge of the bed crying. But if ever there was a beatific wonder in being resigned to emotional failure and heartbreak, then Lower Plenty have nailed it.
Sorry everyone, I just got some dust in my eyes…
Hard Rubbish is available for pre-order here. You can still get some through Goner here. Expect to hear more about Lower Plenty in 2013.
Friday 22 February 2013
Sad news. My good friend Andrew Tuttle is retiring! Well, that’s not true at all – but after almost 9 years, three albums, and lots of EPs/splits/compilations etc, his musical moniker Anonymeye is being laid to rest. He has been a staple to the Sonic Masala cause – he’s played a couple of the Sonic Masala Presents showcases, as well as DJing at one, and has been a constant source of inspiration and laughter.
He’s not finished with music, not by a long shot – he’s got plans for further endeavours on top of becoming co-director of purveyors of all things left-field in Australian music, New Weird Australia.
Tonight is the Anonymeye swansong. Come to the Underground in the Fortitude Valley from 8pm to see him off. He’ll be selling some of his music, and having a good time to boot, come and join in. Excellent support from Pale Earth (Ben from Rational Academy) and Oscil_Ether. Also, it's BYO. I implore you though - bring tallies. Its how Anonymeye always wanted it...
My final post for the day is about yet another way I tend to discover music. And that is through the blog itself. Sonic Masala attracts in excess of forty emails a day. Now, compared to the big cats, I'm sure that’s a piffling amount. But for a one man band who tries to write three posts a day on top of organising shows, interviewing artists, writing up articles/gig/album reviews, going to shows, and then my “day” job – it’s a hell of a lot. Plus, I give each and every one a cursory glance. Granted half will be tossed after said cursory glance, but it also means that there are twenty emails of interest, thus twenty emails to read, twenty artists to listen to, twenty emails to reply to stating either the likelihood of posting about the music or not. Whinge whinge etc. And there are always good ones. Some are great. But there is at least one a month that blindsides you, you connect with it so much.
One such band was Tape Deck Mountain, whose Secret Serf EP back in 2011 absolutely floored me. Granted, it wasn’t an epiphany moment, a watershed suite of sound, but I felt an immediate connection to the title track that it became ingrained into all playlists and conversations for the next few months. Funny thing is, many of said bands disappear off the radar, and you are left pondering what might have been… We don’t have to wait any longer for these guys. Next month the Brooklyn via San Diego trio are releasing EP Slow Salvation. Its another slowburner that curls up darkly at the edges, a smoky ethereal elixir that has a fiery aftertaste, Bauhaus codeine.
Pre-order Slow Salvation through Lefse here.
Tape Deck Mountain - Kellies
I mentioned earlier today And So I Watch You From Afar, and how the discovery of one track on the internet led to checking them out in a so-so musical establishment in Kilburn, London, and becoming an instant fan. Another is to walk in off the street to find something that really rocks your boat. Totally Mild was that band for me on Sunday night. Bizarrely hungry for more music after two days of ATP in Melbourne (and seeing Einsturzende Neubaten close things out), I travelled into Collingwood to Bar Open. Maybe it was the beers, the slight pretense of air conditioning, the comfy chairs – but the Melbourne four piece really impressed in their own shambolic way. It’s Liz Mitchell’s baby (she of Tequila Mockingbirds fame), alongside ex-TM drummer Zac, Lehmann B Smith (Kes Band, as well as his mightily prolific solo material – I brought him up to Brisbane earlier this month for a show opposite Seaplane and Ultra Material) and Yuko Kono. It shuffles between shoegazing (as in the gazing at shoes), tweeing, laconicisms and sudden bursts of melancholic rock. Is that a true indicator of what they sound like? Of course not. But I was shitfaced. And they WERE awesome. Promise?
Here are some old tracks. Hunt them down. They are worthy.
One of the small UK bands that blew me away in my few years there was the utterly insane instrumental band And So I Watch You From Afar. First show was at the Good Ship in Kilburn, which would go down as first of only two good shows I ever saw there (the other gig I don’t remember, to be honest, although there was an Israeli garage band there once that slayed – again, can’t tell you their name…) I heard a track off what would become their debut self-titled record and dragged SM co-founder Paul to it – suffice to say we came away sweating blood and grinning maniacally. I went on to see them a number of times, supporting This Will Destroy You in Camden and a headlining show (I wanna say at the Lexington, but I'm not sure – man, I'm fuzzy today…), and their two records (Gangs came out in 2011) are strong, visceral slabs of aggressive, frenetic rock that nevertheless has its tongue grafted into the middle of its cheek.
Come 2013 and the Belfast trio are looking to make the biggest impact yet. Signing to Sargent House (which makes sense, seeing as likeminded noiseniks Fang Island and Adebisi Shank are on the roster) and are pushing their third LP, appropriately titled All Hail Bright Futures. Below are the first two tastes off the album. I will admit that these tunes don’t grab me by the scruff of the neck and throttle me with glee like they have in the past, but there is a buoyancy inherent in these tracks, because or even despite of the disparity in noise, that will have punters lathered up for the album’s release in exactly a month’s time today (it must be noted that these are new tracks without fiery guitarist Tony Wright, who left over twelve months ago to push a solo career…he was a true focal point of their live performances, so his darker yet mirthful performances may be the reason for the shift in tone). There’s nothing wrong with a sunnier disposition – as long as that vitality isn’t lost in the mix.
They haven’t relented on the gigs either, closing on 500 in total (which is an average of 2 shows a week since they started five years ago – heady stuff), and with stand-in guitarist Niall Kennedy in tow, the band are preparing an European assault come April – check below for where to catch them.
Pre-order All Hail Bright Futures here.
Apr 02, 2013 - Winterthur, Switzerland @ Gaswerk
Apr 03, 2013 - Modena, Italy @ La Tenda
Apr 04, 2013 - Rome, Italy @ Traffic Club
Apr 05, 2013 - Conegliano, Italy @ Appartamento Hoffman
Apr 06, 2013 - Vienna, Austria @ Flex
Apr 07, 2013 - Munich, Germany @ Strom
Apr 08, 2013 - Amsterdam, Netherlands @ MelkWeg
Apr 09, 2013 - Berlin, Germany @ Lido
Apr 10, 2013 - Hamburg, Germany@ HafenKlang
Apr 11, 2013 - Luxembourg, Luxembourg @ Kulturfabrik
Apr 12, 2013 - Koln, Germany @ Gebauede 9
Apr 13, 2013 - Hasselt, Belgium @ Muziekodroom
Apr 15, 2013 - Paris, France @ La Maroquinerie
Apr 16, 2013 - London, UK @ Garage
Apr 17, 2013 - Bristol, UK @ The Thekla
Apr 18, 2013 - Birmingham, UK @ HMV Institute (Temple and Library)
Apr 19, 2013 - Glasgow, SL, UK @ O2 ABC
Apr 20, 2013 - Manchester, UK @ Manchester Academy 3
Thursday 21 February 2013
Last week we swanned about in the sunny glare of Mikal Cronin – last Saturday – I revelled in the twisted genius of John Dwyer’s Thee Oh Sees – today, its their buddy and garage Svengali Ty Segall to kick us in the teeth with a new tune (well, he kinda does this most weeks, there’s always something on the boil). ‘Would You Be My Love’ is fop-haired Beatles growing up in Detroit; the Davies brothers covered in NY leathers; Davy Jones with a Mohawk, a flannelette shirt and a hacksaw. B-side ‘For Those Who Weep’ takes paisley acid-trips by the river, reads the Book of Revelations, and drinks the Kool-Aid. Segall swings whichever way he wants, and it works – he has that perfect vocal timbre, manic presence and maniac guitar twirl – Planet Masala is his for the taking.
Grab the 7” through Drag City here.
Ty Segall – Would You Be My Love
I have a few records coming outta Melbourne’s Bro Fidelity label coming up over the next couple weeks – starting with Daggers Mid-Flight/Hotel Wrecking City Traders guitarist Toby Wrecker’s solo record Sounds of Jura. Nine tracks of guitar/drums improvisation that wavers between hard rock, desert wash, drone annihilation, meditative acoustics and (astonishingly) brief moments of beautiful clarity. Basically Wrecker did a whole bunch of home recordings over the past two years, merely mucking about and playing with the format, and the decision to put them into one solid package is a great one (for us, at least). Plus the reason that it became reality? Wrecker asked Mauro Italiano, a buddy from Turin, to do a cover for him, despite the fact they hadn’t spoken in fifteen years. The end result is below.
I love Sounds of Jura – grab it here. What gets me is that each song is its own sonic planet, and although most songs show a level of brevity often beyond these stylings, they are inhabitable, awe-striking, and brave. Let’s hope more of these “happy accidents” are in the offing.
Toby Wrecker – Entering The Overlook
Toby Wrecker – Avoiding The Pleasantries
Sunday 17 February 2013
NB - This has been written prior to ATP Melbourne. Assume that the following is some semblance of the truth. Jesus. Tittyfucking. Christ. That phrase may be immortalised in Team: America, but I'm pretty sure it was a dry run usage for its true calling – describing Saturday’s ATP Melbourne. At least in terms of volume. Regardless of whether you caught My Bloody Valentine, Swans, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Civil Civic, The Dead C, or all the above, you are sure to have lost some levels of hearing that ain’t ever coming back. We’ll discuss levels of aural orgiastic fulfilment later – but I'm in sever recovery mode. And with another day of it on the doorstep, with the likes of Beasts Of Bourbon, Einsturzende Neubaten, Pere Ubu, My Disco and The Drones to punch me in the face, I need something ramshackle and joyous to react favourably to my bruised head/eyes/ears/soul.
Mikal Cronin is the man to do the job. His self-titled debut last year was a great surprise, his part to play as Ty Segall’s backing dude (or one thereof) is stellar, and ‘Shout It Out’, the single for upcoming album MCII (out on Merge in May) is the kind of sunny bittersweet rambler that hair of the dog and lazy Sunday afternoons were made for. In fact, it’s almost twee, it’s so upbeat. Like a beefed up Ben Kweller. Jesus tittyfucking indeed… (Disclaimer: I actually liked Kweller’s last record. Plus he’s an alright dude. Still, I think Cronin would cuss me out for saying so. Still, it’s meant as a compliment – for better or worse). But seriously, how fun is this? Maybe a more appropriate indicator is ‘Shout It Out’ sounds like the kind of song Dylan Baldi of Cloud Nothings would make if he wrote like he did two years ago, but played like he does right now. Whatever. This is my cure. Let it be yours too.
Mikal Cronin – Shout It Out
Pre-order MCII here (and you can get a T-shirt bundle of the shirt Cronin is wearing above). Enjoy the weekend peeps.